I have interviewed a LOT of people.
And you know what, I don’t mean to brag, but I like to think I’ve cracked it!
From Graduates and Apprentices, right through to Managing Directors, I’ve worked out the little things that can mean the difference between a successful and a not-so-successful interview.
But I didn’t just learn all this from a book or a blog. I have learnt a great deal more from my own experiences and more specifically, the mistakes I have made.
Here are three you might just recognise…
I obviously LOVE my company, Response. You’d expect that to be the case.
So, when I used to interview people to join my team, I would be really ultra-enthusiastic and spend a great deal of time talking to (at) candidates about what we did, what our dreams for the future were and how amazing our team was etc.
Without realising it, I kind of turned into a bit of salesperson.
I remember walking out of an interview once (with quite a shy interviewee) and realising, I hadn’t learned a damn thing about them!
I spent the entire interview talking about how great we were and hadn’t actually asked the candidates enough relevant questions about them.
What did I learn?
- Interviews do require some sort of process and preparation – winging it is dangerous.
- Employer branding is important, but so is actually asking interview questions.
- Shy candidates may feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable if you talk at them for an hour.
I ended up contacting the candidate again (apologetically), doing a follow up video interview and hired her the following week (at least the story had a happy ending, right?)
I don’t know about you, but as an HR professional, I’m constantly on the lookout for a way to standardise my interviews; to create a robust process that will never fail me.
So, back in the day, when I was introduced to “competency questions” I was chuffed.
An objective set of questions, that’ll help to assess any skill imaginable and require candidates to give real-life examples to justify their claims? Yes please.
So I went completely competency crazy.
And by that I mean that my interviews became hour long competency-question-after-competency-question interrogations (that’s not how I saw it at the time, but now when I look back…)
Nobody likes to be interrogated.
Having to recall experience after experience and reveal them in a positive light, on the spot, is bound to fry even the most confident of candidate’s brain.
It’s a totally unnatural experience, and immediately puts people on the defensive and that means…
I discovered all of this and more, when the “perfect candidate” for a job I was recruiting for Response turned down my offer.
She said she found the interview process “too gruelling” and had decided to accept a (lower-paid) job elsewhere as she felt she was a better fit for their culture.
Obviously I was gutted.
Need some tips on how to make candidates feel comfortable in interviews?
What did I learn?
- 3-5 competency questions per interview will be more than enough to find out important skills information about a candidate.
- “Stress interviews” are, in most cases, not the right way to go.
- The best candidates aren’t going to stick around if you interview them badly. Employer branding is important.
Think about your interview process; do you interrogate candidates?
Right, those of you who regularly read our blog, will know how much we go on about the “importance of following up.” And there is a reason for that.
So many recruiters either don’t bother to follow up at all, or get it all wrong when they do.
I used to be one of those recruiters.
After interviewing candidates, I would take some (too much) time to mill over who I wanted to hire and in the meantime, all the candidates were just left waiting in the dark.
When I had made my final decision, I would always send a quick email over to unsuccessful candidates, but it was more like a template saying “sorry, you have been unsuccessful.” (Shudder).
I’d like to point out that this wasn’t down to arrogance or because I just couldn’t be bothered.
As an inexperienced interviewer, I just hadn’t really thought through the consequences of not following up. I hadn’t considered…
And the various other scenarios that would affect my company as a result of my ignorance.
What did I learn?
I’ve got to admit, this only happened once or twice very early on in my career, because I soon learnt my lesson; I ended up losing out on a perfect hire because I took too long to make my decision.
Now, I always…
- Follow up saying “thank you” for attending the interview, while setting expectations of when the final decision will be made.
- Make my decision quickly and let the successful candidate know.
- Take phone calls from my candidates if they need reassurance or wish to check on application progress.
- Give proper feedback about the interview (not just a one-liner).
I also do all of this for my clients. And it really does make a difference.
We all make mistakes. And I’m not afraid to admit it.
In fact, the silliest mistakes I’ve made (above) have turned me into the recruiter I am today.
Three things I always tell my clients now:
- Be friendly and start a conversation, but don’t lose sight of what you’re there to achieve; finding a superstar new employee for your business.
- Use some (3 – 5) competency questions, but don’t shovel too many into the process, it’s awkward and far too intense.
- Always, always, always follow up with your candidates.
Pretty simple, really.
Have you made any similar mistakes? Or perhaps some completely different ones?
If you’d like to read more confessions and real-life stories, check these out…